The Global Carrier Perspective: Telefonica and MTS on Balancing Developed and Developing Markets (Video)
Telefonica’s revenue comes half from Europe and half from Latin America. But it has 100 million customers in Europe and 200 million in Latin America, where there is just 13 percent smartphone penetration.
“It’s kind of like two different businesses,” said Carlos Domingo, director of product development and innovation for Telefonica Digital, speaking at our D: Dive Into Mobile conference in April. Whereas in Europe, Telefonica is looking toward opportunities in business-to-business and cloud computing, in Latin America most of its customers don’t have bank accounts.
Domingo is a forward-thinking kind of guy, leading his company’s work on things like Firefox OS and partnerships with and acquisitions of companies like Everything.me and Tokbox. But he also knows his team is playing catch-up. Of WhatsApp, the immensely popular global text messaging app, Domingo said, “They’ve done something we should have done — we’ve been sitting on SMS without changing it very much.”
But carriers continue to have valuable assets, chief among them their relationships with millions of customers. Michael Hecker, vice president of strategy, M&A and corporate development for Mobile TeleSystems, which has more than 70 million customers in Russia, noted that Russia is a sort of hybrid emerging/emerged market in and of itself.
“We don’t have a problem being a dumb pipe as long as the dumb pipe delivers us the investment funds for going into other businesses,” he said, mentioning cloud computing and financial services.
To that end, MTS is opening bank outlets in Russia, given its billing relationship with customers is often their only banking and credit relationship. The carrier uses its mobile customers’ payment history as an in-house credit score.
Both Domingo and Hecker expressed strong interest in breaking away from Apple and Google’s control of the mobile market, noting their support for Mozilla and Microsoft, respectively.
Check out the full interview with AllThingsD’s Ina Fried here: